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Family Rubiaceae
Hydnophytum formicarum Jack

Hua roi ru

Scientific names Common names
Bantiala nigra Dauphinot Banghai (Bis.)
Hydnophytum amboinense Becc. Ant nest (Engl.)
Hydnophytum andamanense Becc. Ant plant (Engl.)
Hydnophytum blumei Becc. Baboon's head (Engl.)
Hydnophytum borneense Becc.  
Hydnophytum coriaceum Becc.  
Hydnophytum formicarum Jack  
Hydnophytum formicarum blumei (Becc.) Becc.  
Hydnophytum formicarum montanum Becc.  
Hydnophytum formicarum subsp. blumei (Becc.) Boerl.  
Hydnophytum formicarum subsp. blumei Boerl.  
Hydnophytum formicarum subsp. montanum (Becc.) Boerl.  
Hydnophytum formicarum var. borneense (Becc.) Becc.  
Hydnophytum formicarum var. buxifolium Becc.  
Hydnophytum formicarum var. cochincinenseBecc.  
Hydnophytum formicarum var. dubium Becc.  
Hydnophytum formicarum subsp. dubium (Becc.) Boerl.  
Hydnophytum formicarum var. latifolium (Miq.) Becc.  
Hydnophytum formicarum var. longifolium Becc.  
Hydnophytum formicarum var. lucidum Becc.  
Hydnophytum formicarum var. minor Becc.  
Hydnophytum formicarum f. siamense Becc.  
Hydnophytum formicarum subsp. siamense (Becc.) Boerl.  
Hydnophytum formicarum f. typicum Becc.  
Hydnophytum formicarum subsp. zollingeri (Becc.) Boerl.  
Hydnophytum formicarum zollingeri Boerl.  
Hydnophytum gaudichaudii Becc.  
Hydnophytum ineerme (Gaudich.) Bremek. ex Holthius & H.J.Lam  
Hydnophytum intermedium Elmer  
Hydnophytum leytense Merr.  
Hydnophytum membranaceum Merr.  
Hydnophytum mindorense Merr.  
Hydnophytum montanum Blume  
Hydnophytum montanum var. montalatifolia Miq.  
Hydnophytum nitidum Merr.  
Hydnophytum orbiculatum Elmer  
Hydnophytum selebicum Becc.  
Hydnophytum sumatranum Becc.  
Lasiostoma formicarum (Jack) Spreng.  
Myrmecodia inermis Gaudich.  
Hydnophytym formicarum Jack is an accepted species. KEW: Plants of the World Online

Other vernacular names
CHINESE: Hua roi ru.
MALAYSIA: Dedalu api laut, kepala berok.
INDONESIA: Urek-urek polo
THAILAND: Hua roi ruu, pum pao

Gen info
- Ant nest is a plant name, and not referring to a nest of ants. Ant nests are plants from the Hydnophytinae. They are epiphytes, attached to other plants, but no parasitic (living on the host) but merely using it to stick on. Hydnophytum consists of 45 species, with 26 species from Myrmecodia, make up 71 species of ant nests. All have hollow stem bubble-like fruit cavities inhabited by ants.
- Hydnophytum fornicarum (Baboon's head or Ant plant) is an epiphyte native to Southeast Asia. It is a myrmecophyte as ants live in its tuber (caudex) and pollinate its flowers.   (22)
- Hydnophytum formicarum has extrafloral nectaries, which are nectar-producing and secreting glands that makes sugars. Nectar is secreted via trichomes, secreted from vacuoles that are stored in the periplasmic space at the edge of the cell. The sugars attract ants to the plants. Hydnophytum formicarum and the ants partake in a mutually beneficial relationship. They attract the ants via the nectaries and provide shelter for them in the caudex and domatia, while the ants prevent herbivory and provide nutrients to the plants. (22)

• Banghai is an epiphytic coastal herb. Lower stem is very greatly swollen into a large, rounded, fleshy, tuberous structure containing numerous labyrinthine cavities which are inhabited by ants. Leaves are opposite, thick, elliptic-obovate, 4 to 10 centimeters long, rounded or very bluntly pointed at the tip, and wedged-shaped at the base. Flowers are solitary or few fascicled, borne in the leaf axils, pale white, about 6 millimeters long. Corolla is salver-shaped, about 5 millimeters long, cylindric, with four tufts of hairs in the throat. Fruit is juicy, yellowish-red when ripe, broadly ovoid, and about 5 centimeters long.

• The epiphyte grows a tuber also known as a caudex, that is spineless and contains chambers; many of which are connected to one another. These tubers may grow 10–55 cm in diameter with two to four stems that reach about 60 cm long. The leaves, which grow 4–15 cm long and 2–7 cm wide, are opposite, elliptical and have a leathery texture. Flowers are four-merous, white, and occur in groups of 3–10, which then yield orange, fleshy fruits 6–7 mm in diameter. (22)

- Native to the Philippines.
- In mangrove swamps in Luzon (Quezon) and Polillo.

- Also native to Andaman Is., Borneo, Cambodia, Jawa, Malaya, Maluku, Myanmar, New Guinea, Sulawesi, Sumatera, Thailand, Vietnam. (16)
- Critically endangered in Singapore.

- Contains flavonoids and tannins.
- Ethanol extract has yielded histone deacetylase inhibitors reported to have anticancer properties.
- Study of crude ethyl acetate extract isolated bioactive flavonoid and phenolic compounds: isoliquiritigenin (2), protocatechualdehyde (3), butin (4), and butein (5). (see study below) (2)
- Study of fine powders of young tubers isolated four compounds:
sinapinic acid, β-sitosterol acetate, β-sitosterol and stigmasterol. (12)
- Tuber extracts yielded 22 elements: Be, Al, Ca, Cr, Mn, Fe, Zn, Ba, P, Li, Sr, Rb, Hg, Tl, In, Pb, Cd, As, Cs, Na, K and Mg. (see study below) (6)
- Phytochemical screening of ethanol extract of folium yielded alkaloid, terpenoid, tannin, glycoside, and saponin; cortex yielded alkaloid, flavonoid, terpenoid, and glycoside. (15)
- Chromatographic study of methanol extract of fine powers from young tubers yielded two new compounds, namely: hydnophaldehyde [4,4′,10′,13′,14′-pentamethylgona-7′,9′(11′)-dien-17′-yl(6)-2,2-dimethylheptanal] (1) and 2-(2′-methoxyphenyl)ethyl palmitate (2). (17)

- Studies have suggested antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiproliferative, HDAC inhibitory, wound healing, anticancer, anti-quorum sensing, antidiabetic properties.

Parts used
Tuber, woody base.


- Decoction of swollen, woody base used as remedy for liver and intestinal complaints.
- In the Dutch Indies, poultice of pounded tubers used for headaches.
- In Indonesia, used to treat swelling, headaches and rheumatism.
- Decoction of rhizomes used for cholera.

- In Thailand, used for the treatment of cancer.
- In Vietnam, tubers used for the treatment of rheumatism liver and intestinal diseases. (20)

Antimicrobial / Antioxidative:
Study isolated flavonoid and phenolic compounds: isoliquiritigenin, protocatechualdehyde, butin and butein. The ethyl acetate extract showed to be a potent antioxidant. and exhibited activity against many Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. Protocatechualdehyde (3) completely inhibited the growth of Plesiomonas shigelloides with MIC ≤60 µg/ml. Results suggest a source of enriched and potent antioxidative and antimicrobial agents. (see constituents above (2)
Antioxidant: Study showed the high total phenolic content and strong DPPH radical-scavenging activity. (3)
Antioxidant / Cytotoxicity: Study on cytotoxicity showed less cytotoxicity against all types of cancer lines but high antioxidant activity.
Antioxidant Activity: Extract analysis yielded 22 elements: Be, Al, Ca, Cr, Mn, Fe, Zn, Ba, P, Li, Sr, Rb, Hg, Tl, In, Pb, Cd, As, Cs, Na, K and Mg. Bioactive ß-sitosterol was isolated from hexane and chloroform extracts. Significant radical scavenging activity was demonstrated with IC50 range of 8.40-8.79 µg/mL. (6)
Antiproliferative Activity: Seventy-seven Vietnamese medicinal plants were studied for their antiproliferative activities against human HT-1080 fibrosarcoma cells. Fifteen extracts, including the methanol extract of Hydnophytum formicarum exhibited antiproliferative activities in a concentration-dependent manner. H. formicarum also showed selective activity against human tumor cell lines, He La and A549. Morphological changes and DNA fragmentation suggested induction of apoptosis. (7)
Antiproliferative and HDAC (Histone deacetylase) Inhibitory Activity:: Study evaluated the ability of ethanolic and phenolic-rich extracts and its its major phenolic compound, sinapinic acid in inhibiting the proliferation of 5 human cancer cell lines. Results showed the rhizome extracts to possess both antiproliferative activity and HDAC activity in HeLa cells. Sinapinic acid inhibited the growth of HeLa and HT29 cells more effectively than sodium butyrate. The growth inhibitory effects were mediated by the induction of apoptosis. (8)
• Enhanced Lymphocyte Proliferation: Study evaluated the effects of H. formicarum on proliferation of mouse lymphyocyte, Vero and T47D's cell lines. Test extracts yielded flavonoid, phenolic, aldehyde/ ketone, terpenoids, and tannin. Extracts A and B increased lymphocyte proliferation by increasing concentration. Extract B showed highest inhibition against T47D cells. Both extracts could not enhance proliferation of Vero cells. (10)
• 3HFD / Cytotoxic to Human Breast Carcinoma MCF-7 Cell Line: A flavanoid derivative, 7,3',5'-trihydroxyflavanone (3HFD) isolated from H. formicarum has shown cytotoxic effects of human breast carcinoma cell line MCF-7. This study showed 3HFD was able to induce apoptotic cell death of MCF-7 by increasing Bax expression level. Results suggest a potential for 3HFD as a chemotherapeutic agent. (11)
• Antioxidant / Antibacterial / Anticancer / Tubers: Study evaluated the antioxidant, antibacterial, and cytotoxicity potencies of H. formicarum tubers. A methanol fraction showed strong antioxidant property (>70%), strong antibacterial potency (inhibition > 12mm) and high cytotoxicity against MCF-7 cell lines (IC50<2µg/mL). (13)
• Anti-Quorum Sensing / Modulation of P. aeruginosa Pathogenicity: Study evaluated the ability of ethanol extract of H. formicarum tubers to antagonize cell-to-cell communication. Results showed inhibition of violacein production. There was inhibition of Ps. aeruginosa motility and biofilm formation. Results showed H. formicarum is a potential source for new QS-based antibacterial drugs towards Pseudomonas aeruginosa. (14)
• Attenuation of Oxidative Stress-Induced Neuronal Cell Death: Study evaluated the protective effects of H. formicarum extract via regulation of SIRT1-FOXO3a-ADAM10 signaling and antioxidative activity against H2O2-induced neurotoxicity in neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells. Methanol and ethyl acetate extracts elicited protective effects on neuronal cell death. Both extracts exerted inhibitory effects against H2O2-induced ROS generation in the SH-SY5Y cells. The mechanism of neuroprotection may be through antioxidant properties by maintaining the levels of catalase and SOD2 proteins and activation of SIRT1-FOXO3a pathway. (18)
• Effect on Collagen Fibers for Wound Healing After Tooth Extraction: Tooth extraction cause tissue damage around the socket. Study evaluated the effect of ant-plant ethanol extract on the density of collagen fibers for wound healing after tooth extraction in guinea pig. Application of ant-nest ethanol extract showed significant effects on the density of collagen fibers in the wound healing process after tooth extraction. (19)
• Subacute Oral Toxicity / Tubers: Stuart evaluated the subacute oral toxicity of an ethanol extract of H. formicarum, in measures of mortality, body weights, toxic sings, hematological and biochemical parameters. Results showed that at 100 mg/kg the EEFF did not cause any toxic signs in mice, with no significant alterations in measured parameters and no significant histopathologic findings. (20)
• Application in Biscuits: Stuart evaluated the best extraction condition for several solvents. GC-MS analysis identified major constituents in the n-hexane, ethyl acetate and ethanol extracts. Studies showed all three extracts had high antioxidant and antimicrobial activity. H. formicarum ethanol extract was added to a biscuit formula in the amount of gram of condensed extract/100 grams of dough. Results of preferences measures of color, flavor, taste and general acceptance, showed the biscuit to be likely accepted by consumers. (21)
• Effect on Wound Healing: Stuart evaluated the effects of H. formicarum plant extract on collagen density, angiogenesis, wound length, and re-epithelization in wound healing of wounds induced by punch-biopsy technique in Sprague-Dawley rats. Results showed topical use of Hf extract affected the formation of scar tissue, as indicated by positive area of collagen, extent of angiogenesis, wound length, and reepithelization rate in the granulation phases. The inhibition of angiogenesis was probably related to the formation of scar tissue in the wound. (23)
• Wng-Nam-Yen / Antidiabetic / Anti-Dipeptidyl-Peptidase-4 Inhibition / Tubers: Wang-Nam-Yen is a Thai hospital recipe used as traditional antidiabetic medicine.  Study evaluated the antidiabetic mechanisms of the 26 medicinal plants that make up the Wang-Nam-Yen preparation. Results showed most plants inhibited α-glucosidase and α-amylase at excellent levels with higher potency than standard acarbose (18.2%).  Hydnophytum formicarum showed 82.8% inhibited of  DPP-4 with IC50 33.87 µg/ml.
H. formicarum ethanolic extract yielded palmitic acid with DPP-4 inhibitory activity at IC50 if 73.82 µg/ml, and a mixture of stigmasterol (2) and ß-sitosterol (3) at 78.58 µg/ml. Results suggest potential for use of H. formicarum and its isolated compounds as standard antidiabetic. (24)
• Antibacterial / S. aureus and E. coli / Tubers: Stuart evaluated the activity of H. formicarum tuber extract against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli using agar well diffusion method. Results showed inhibition zones of 16.33 mm against S. aureus, 14.33 mm against E. coli, with MICs of 8,000 µg/mL and 4,000 µg/mL concentration against S. aureus and E. coli respectively. Bacterial responses to the extract was consistently dose- and time-dependent. (25)


                                            Abuse and Plagiarism of the Compilation on Philippine Medicinal Plants
                                                                                    Under the Guise of Fair Use

Updated October 2023 / June 2020 / July 2017 / April 2014

                                                 PHOTOS / ILLUSTRATIONS
IMAGE SOURCE: Illustration: Hydnophytum formicarum / Die_Gartenlaube_(1897) / Public Domain / click on image to go to source page / Wikimedia Commons
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: RUBIACEAE / Hydnophytum formicarum / Panicking ants / Copyright © 2011 by Leonardo L. Co / (contact: pieter.pelser@canterbury.ac.nz) [ref. DOL29576] / PelserPB / Click on image to go to source page
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Ant plant (Hydnophytum fornicarum) / Bernard Dupont / CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic / click on image to go to source page / image modified / Wikipedia Commons
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Ant plant (Hydnophytum fornicarum) leaves and fruits / Copyright © Thai Health / Non-commercial use / click on image or link to go to source page / image modified / ThaiHealth

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Papua Anthill medicine / Health & Medicine /
Antimicrobial and Antioxidative Activities of Bioactive Constituents from Hydnophytum formicarum Jack / Supaluk Prachayasittikul et al / Molecules, 2008; 13(4): pp 904-921 / DOI: 10.3390/molecules13040904 / PMID: 18463592
Evaluation of antioxidant potential of medicinal plants from Malaysian Rubiaceae (subfamily Rubioideae)
/ Ahmad R, Mahbob E N M, Noor Z M et al / African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 9(46), pp. 7948-7954, 15 November, 2010
Research on Thai medicinal plants for cancer treatment / A. Itharat and B. Ooraikul / Advances in Medicinal Plant Research, 2007: 287-317 ISBN: 81-7736-255-0 / Ch 13
Hydnophytum formicarum Jack / Vernacular names / GLOBinMED
Chemical Constituents and Antioxidant Activity of Hydnophytum formicarum Jack.
/ S. Prachayasittikul, R. Pingaew, V. Yamkamon, A. Worachartcheewan, S. Wanwimolruk, S. Ruchirawat and V. Prachayasittikul / International Journal of Pharmacology, 2012; Vol 8, Issue 5: pp 440-444 / DOI: 10.3923/ijp.2012.440.444
Antiproliferative activity of Vietnamese medicinal plants / Ueda J.-Y., Tezuka Y., Banskota A.H., Le Tran Q., Tran Q.K., Harimaya Y., Saiki I., Kadota S. / Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 2002, Vol 25, Issue 6, pp 753-760.
Histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitory and antiproliferative activities of phenolic-rich extracts derived from the rhizome of Hydnophytum formicarum Jack.: sinapinic acid acts as HDAC inhibitor / Thanaset Senawong*, Suwatchai Misuna, Somprasong Khaopha, Suporn Nuchadomrong, Prasan Sawatsitang, Chanokbhorn Phaosiri, Arpa Surapaitoon and Banchob Sripa / BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013, 13:232 / doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-232
Potential of Ant-Nest Plants As An Alternative Cancer Treatment / Hamsar, M. N., and Mizaton, H. H / ournal of Pharmacy Research 2012,5(6),3063-3066
The effects of Hydnophytum formicarum ethanolic extract towards lymphocyte, vero and T47d cells proliferation in vitro / David Darwis, Triana Hertiani*, Ediati Samito / Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science Vol. 4 (06), pp. 103-109, June, 2014 / DOI: 10.7324/JAPS.2014.40616
A natural compound from Hydnophytum formicarium induces apoptosis of MCF-7 cells via up-regulation of Bax / Hasmah Abdullah et al / Cancer Cell Int. 2010; 10:14 / doi:  10.1186/1475-2867-10-14
THE CHEMICAL CONSTITUENTS FROM YOUNG TUBERS of Hydnophytum formicarum / Nur Shafiqa Abdullah, Wan Yaacob Wan Ahmad, Noor Aziiraa Sabri / Malaysian Journal of Analytical Sciences, Vol 21 No 2 (2017): pp 291-297 / DOI: https://doi.org/10.17576/mjas-2017-2102-03

Hydnophytum formicarum Tuber Fractions as Antioxidant, Antibacterial, And Anticancer Potential Agents / Yosie Andriani, Herina Yuni Utami, Dody Dori Putra, Desy Fitrya Samsumir, Murni Islamiah Kassim / Institute of Marine Biotechnology, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Malaysia
Hydnophytum formicarum Jack ethanol extract modulates quorum sensing-controlled pathogenicity in Pseudomonas aeruginosa / Triana Hertiani and Sylvia Utami Tunjung Pratiwi / Pak. J. Pharm. Sci., Sept 2015, Vol 28, No 5: pp 1691-1697
Screening of α-Glucosidase Inhibitory Activity from Some Plants of Apocynaceae, Clusiaceae, Euphorbiaceae, and Rubiaceae/ Berna Elya, Katrin Basah, AbdulMun’im,Wulan Yuliastuti, Anastasia Bangun, and Eva Kurnia Septiana / Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, Volume 2012 /
Hydnophytum formicarum / Synonyms / KEW: Plants of the World Online
NEW COMPOUNDS FROM Hydnophytum formicarum YOUNG TUBERS (Sebatian Baru daripada Bonjolan Muda Hydnophytum formicarum) / Nur Shafiqa Abdullah, Wan Yaacob Wan Ahmad*, Noor Aziiraa Sabri / Malaysian Journal of Analytical Sciences, 2017; 21(4): pp 778-783 / DOI: https://doi.org/10.17576/mjas-2017-2104-03
( 18)
Attenuation of oxidative stress-induced neuronal cell death by Hydnophytum formicarum Jack. / Naw Hser Gay, Kamonrat Phopin, Wilasinee Suwanjang, Waralee Ruankha et al / Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine, 2018; 11(7): pp 415-422 / DOI: 10.4103/1995-7645.237185
The effect of ant-plant (Hydnophytum formicarum) ethanol extract on collagen fibers for wound healing after tooth extraction in the guinea pig (Cavia cobaya) / Siti Velanita, Efa Ismardianita, Andries Pascawinata / Padjadaran Journal of Dentistry, 2019; 31(3) DOI:https://doi.org/10.24198/pjd.vol31no3.19328
Subacute oral toxicity evaluation of the ethanolic extract of Hydnophytum formicarum Jack. tubers in Phu Quoc, Vietnam / Mai Nguyen Ngoc Trac,, Pham Thu Ha, Do Thi Hong Tuoi / MedPharmres, Vol 2020, Issue 1 / https://doi.org/10.32895/UMP.MPR.4.1.1
STUDY ON CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL ACTIVITIES OF HYDNOPHYTUM FORMICARUM EXTRACTS AND THEIR APPLICATIONS IN BISCUITS / Truong Thi Minh Hanh, Nguyen Thi Bich Thao / The University of Danang - Journal of Science and Technology, 2015
Hydnophytum formicarum / Wikipedia
Effects of the Hydnophytum formicarum plant extract on collagen density, angiogenesis, wound length, and re-epithelialization in wound healing: Experimental study on rats / Nissia Ananda, Dwi Ariawan, Vetnizah Juniantito / Dent Med Probl., 2022; 59(1): pp 67-73 / DOI: 10.17219/dmp/140208
Antidiabetic Activities of Medicinal Plants in Traditional Recipes and Candidate Antidiabetic Compounds from Hydnophytum formicarum Jack. Tubers / Mingkwan Rachpirom, Louis R Barrows, Suriyan Thengyai,  Panupong Puttarak et al / Pharmacogn Res., 2022; 14(1): pp 89-99 / DOI: 10.5530/pres.14.1.13
Mode of Action and Antibacterial Activity of Ethanolic Ant Plant Tuber Extract Inhibiting Growth of Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli / Theera Srisawat, Narueparn Sukkasam, Chananchita Nilake, Jirawadee Uppala, Kanokrat Keawchai, Amita Chujan, Chuthapond Musimun, Parinuch Chumkaew, Patima Permpoonpattana / Walailak Journal of Science & Technology, 2021; 18(15) /
DOI: 10.48048/wjst.2021.9255

DOI: It is not uncommon for links on studies/sources to change. Copying and pasting the information on the search window or using the DOI (if available) will often redirect to the new link page. (Citing and Using a (DOI) Digital Object Identifier)

                                                            List of Understudied Philippine Medicinal Plants
                                          New plant names needed
The compilation now numbers over 1,300 medicinal plants. While I believe there are hundreds more that can be added to the collection, they are becoming more difficult to find. If you know of a medicinal plant, native or introduced, to suggest for addition to the compilation, please email the info: local plant name (if known), any known folkloric medicinal use, scientific name (most helpful), and, if possible, a photo. Your help will be greatly appreciated.

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